Building » Elm Park – St Alban

Elm Park – St Alban

Langdale Gardens, Elm Park, Hornchurch, Essex RM12

A large post-war church apparently inspired by San Zeno, Verona. The unusual plan was designed to ensure a clear view of the sanctuary: the two transepts and nave are dissolved internally into a single space. The tower and the location at the end of a vista give the church townscape value.

A temporary church was opened in Carnforth Gardens by Monsignor O’Grady VG in November 1939. The architects were Burles, Harris & Collings of Southend-on-Sea with the contractors Myall Bros. of Shenfield. Part of the cost of the site (£700) and building (£1,250) was met from a legacy of Ellen Augusta Woodward (died 1938). Until the first resident priest arrived in 1949, the church was served from St Mary Mother of God, Hornchurch.

The foundation stone of the present church was laid by Bishop Wall on 27 April 1959, who opened it on 14 June the following year. As the Verona Fathers or Comboni Missionaries were in charge of the parish at the time, the design was apparently inspired by the church of San Zeno, Verona. The architect was David Rodney Burles of Burles & Newton, Southend-on-Sea. The builders were Messrs J. Leary & Sons, Stratford. The cost of the building was £33,585. The first church continued to be used as a parish hall until its recent sale. The church has been reordered, possibly for the consecration by Bishop Casey on 31 January 1978.


The church is actually facing northwest. This description uses the conventional liturgical orientation.

The roof and the internal columns are steel portal frames, while the walls are faced with brown bricks laid in stretcher bond (Flemish bond for the tower). The roof is pantiled. The plan is longitudinal, with two transeptal cross roofs. Flat-roofed ancillary spaces including the sacristy and the parish centre are attached at the east. At the northwest is a 60ft-high bell tower, T-shaped in plan and with a reinforced concrete core. The bell is cast from two which used to hang in a church in Westcliff- on-Sea.

The west gable has a five-light gabled window, with a frame and mullions of precast reconstructed stone. Above and below the window are flint panels. The entrance below the window is framed by decoratively receding and projecting brickwork. The brickwork on either side of the window and on the tower has projecting bricks forming small crosses. The transepts have windows similar to that on the west, with less decoration.

Internally, the space does not read as nave and transepts but instead as nave and aisles divided only by six columns carrying the roofs. The ceiling is timber-panelled and the flat-roofed spaces in all four corners, including the chapels, are lit by skylights. Below the west gallery is the small narthex flanked by confessionals and the gallery stair. The Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the northeast has a stone tabernacle stand, a piscina and a statue of St Joseph nearby. The pedestal of the tabernacle stand is of the same profile as the two supports of the altar and they may have once formed part of the original high altar of Portland stone which according to photos of 1960 had three supports (CBR.S1960). The sanctuary has a panelled reredos, echoing the form of the windows, with a carved crucifix, flanked by two piscinas. A canopy above is attached to the ceiling and is now painted brown. The sanctuary is lit by three windows on either side. Set in the north wall is the foundation stone of 1959. The timber and metal pulpit is original. To the south of the sanctuary is the timber font with a plaque recording its erection by the Hornchurch Council of the Knights of St Columba in 1931. The Lady Chapel at the southeast has a piscina and a statue of Our Lady and the Christ Child. Near the entrance to the sacristy at the southeast is a statue of St Patrick. The Stations are reliefs carved in timber. The benches are of polished African mahogany.

Heritage Details

Architect: Burles & Newton

Original Date: 1959

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed